The guy with the light-brown hair. It's his fault. From a distance, I catch a half-second glimpse of Sean. Fancy meeting my late husband in New Zealand at his ten-year-old's school swimming day.
Not-Sean clambers up the steep bleacher seats at the Mount Maunganui College pool, just feet from where I sit. I steal a glance, and of course, he looks nothing like Sean. Only the color of his hair and maybe the outline of his nose is faintly reminiscent. It's enough to send my fingers digging into my purse like a dog scratching for lost treasure - only I'm looking for a tissue to dab my watery eyes and blow my nose. Sunglasses help.
So it happened, on this sixth year after Sean's death that I'm crying at the pool. It's a little more than a month after the anniversary of his death. For the first time, I forgot about January 23rd, oblivious to its significance as I enjoyed the waning days of the grandparents' visit with us and the end of the kids' school holidays. What could we have been doing that was so important, to make me forget? I check my calendar: I ran in the morning, had lunch with Dad and Kathe at Tay Street, played on my paddle board and hosted Jo and Rob for dinner.
In other words, nothing catastrophic happened. Has that day become nothing special?
I watch Finley get trounced in his first heat, swimming three lengths of freestyle against classmates he says are nationally-ranked in their age group. The next races happen against regular boys, and Finley wins his heats racing one length of freestyle, breaststroke, and backstroke. Each time, he emerges from the pool and climbs onto the bleachers to see me, and after a while, when Pete arrives, to see his stepdad, too. I give Finn thumbs up. "Well done, Sweetie. Proud of you."
Within the past month, my give-it-a-go guy has lost a consolation round at a tennis tournament to a kid who hyperventilated, then took a 20-minute time out before returning to the court to beat Finn (players are only allowed three minutes for time out before the other player wins by default); he wasn't chosen for a squad to play soccer in Australia; and he narrowly missed getting into his school's fun day sports competition. He needed this victory day.
His dad didn't get to see Finley's wiry, brown body dive too deeply at the start but still comfortably win his breaststroke leg; he didn't see Finn touch the wall or trot over to recount his achievements and ask for snacks. Sean didn't see it. But I did - and that makes me happy. And sad.